3,013,745,127 shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be 3,013,745,127. … Five is right out.
My apologies to Monty Python there, but that number — 3,013,745,127 — is a pretty impressive number, because it is a group number. The group are those harried spirits taking part in National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo ) . From November 1st to the 30th, for “thirty days and nights of literary abandon”, people from around the world come together in a virtual challenge to themselves and to each other … from a standing start, armed with nothing more than your inspiration and maybe a plot outline, craft a novel of 50,000 words.
For those of you who are less than mathematically inclined, that works out to a smidge less than 1700 words a day. Now, most professional authors are happy to nail 1,000 words an hour. Thus, for the pros in the audience, we’re talking about slightly less than a 2h commitment every day for the entire month of November.
That might not sound so bad, but keep in mind that I write closer to 700 words an hour and now we are talking 3h a day. If you work a day job, then that time is coming out of your evenings and weekends. Usually prized time for many of us.
However, when I submitted my 50+k heap of novel-ish writing for validation at around 11:30pm Atlantic time, that number — 3,013,745,127 — was the collective word count of everyone who had submitted to this point. “Win” or “lose”, the collective power of the writers of NaNoWriMo jointly created over THREE BILLION new words of literature. That is a library’s worth of full length novels. In one month. That is a helluva concept, isn’t it?
NaNoWriMo is, for better or worse, a transformative experience. Unless you are a truly gifted writer ( looking at you @chantellyb13 ) this is something you have likely never thought of doing before. 0 to novelist in 1 month. You learn a lot about who you are as a writer and as a person. Your raw talent and personal self-discipline are put right in front of your face for a month.
I wrote my first novel, “The Sauder Diaries” in four months of whittling at it in my spare time, usually on commuter trains at 45 minutes a go and maybe a bit on a weekend or during an evening if I was really feeling inspired. I was grooving on the feedback of every-couple-of-weeks-a-chapter releases on Scribd, and really had no particular deadlines.
This time, I decided that TSD Book 2, tenatively titled “A Bloodier Rose” would be my personal stake in NaNoWriMo. It is entirely possible my attitude going into it was wrong… I was not thinking “I WILL CONQUER!”, but rather “Hey, lets see how far this flies!” Either way, I squeaked in with 30 minutes left on the clock and did a bit better than 50k. So I am happy about that.
I am more happy about something else. Specifically something I learned about myself. I am not a writer; if you read about what other writers say it is to be a writer — the burning need, compulsion and ability to hammer out three to five pages a day without thought of edits or review, plowing ever onward like some resolute literary juggernaught that cannot be stopped any sooner than “The End” — well, I’m not that.
I seem to be a story teller that is in dire need of either a stenographer or more patience for training Dragon Dictate. I have a story to tell, and I really want to help people see and feel what it is I see in my head. I cannot, on the other hand, feel good about anything I have written in this spate of “literary abandon”. Hell, I am not even sure if what I wrote is coherent. I am pretty much going to have to go all the way back to the beginning and start reading and likely re-writing so that I know my own story.
I impressed myself a few times — 5,000 or 6,000 words on a Sunday, for example — but it was not enjoyable writing. It was work. It was a type of writing I dislike of myself, where I cannot honestly say that I am proud of what I have done so far.
However, as a tool for self-learning, it did exactly what I wanted it to do. NaNoWriMo taught me more about who I am as apparently a not-writer in one month than anything I had done to date.
I am glad I did it, I’m glad its over, and I will likely never do it again. But hey… I got a stamp!